Police were told to knock with their hands, not with their boots.
That’s one story of a swatting incident safely averted, thanks to a network launched on Friday that tipped off police a week ahead of 9 January, when they received a bogus message about a “cylinder thing with duct tape wrapped around it” that was supposedly to be found within a would-be victim’s house.
The network, Crash Override, is the brainchild of Zoe Quinn, game developer and ground-zero doxing victim of #gamergate.
Quinn launched Crash Override – an “online anti-harassment task force” – with her partner, Alex Lifschitz, to help victims of doxing/swatting in the ongoing gamergate battle.
Swatting – a term derived from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) – is the practice of making bogus emergency calls, as a prank or as revenge, that result in the dispatch of emergency services.
Crash Override is staffed with volunteers who’ve themselves been targeted with the harassment techniques of doxing and swatting.
Quinn’s certainly been there.
At this point, she’s been harassed with threats – one such was a suggestion that she be given a “crippling injury that’s never going to fully heal” at an industry conference – for almost two years.
Her personal details were doxed in August 2014, after which the threatening email, abusive tweets and prank calls spiraled to the point that she feared for her personal safety and chose to sleep on friends’ sofas instead of her own home.
The gamergate controversy, which picked up that name in August, concerns a number of aspects of video game culture. Depending on which side you’re talking to, those elements are either sexism and misogyny, or questions about journalistic ethics.
Journalistic ethics? Maybe it was in there somewhere at the beginning.
But there’s no maybe about the sexism. Three women game developers have been forced to flee their homes under rape/mutilation/bombing/homicidal threats since August.
Crash Override is an effort to try to squeeze something useful out those experiences: to try to apply lessons learned to help other abuse survivors.
It offers crisis center support for those in the midst of attack, ongoing assistance to victims, and community outreach and activism that includes tools to keep from needing help in the first place, such as guides on keeping your information out of the wrong hands.
On the network’s Twitter feed, multiple people claim to have been helped through episodes of doxing and swatting :
Izzy Galvez @iglvzx
.@CrashOverrideNW Crash Override helped me immensely when I was working with police to ensure I would be safe when I was SWATed.
Andrew Todd @mistertodd
8chan doxed me this week, and @CrashOverrideNW gave me advice and support through that. They’re good people who know their sh*t.
The first of those tweets comes from one of the group’s first clients: Israel Galvez, a web developer and Gamergate critic who was the target of a swatting attempt that came out of a forum linked to the gamergate movement, according to The Guardian.
The Guardian says that the intended swatting was co-ordinated on the “baphomet” subforum of the 8chan image board – a 4chan-style community that’s become a hub of the movement – along with a sub-Reddit.
Quinn told Ars Technica that the network is foiling such attempts by constantly monitoring the chat rooms, forums, and imageboard sites where doxing targets and activities are coordinated.
They used the information gleaned from those public and private sites to pre-emptively warn Galvez, the would-be victim of the “cylinder” swatting attempt.
Crash Override says that it’s also prevented other, potentially deadly swatting attempts and helped to secure more people against hacking and doxing attempts.
Lifschitz told The Guardian that the network’s immediate priority is to weed out the people who really need help from the trolls looking to waste the volunteers’ time:
[The network is] quite cognisant of the likelihood of false-positives, trolls, and harassers brigading us as we launch in the current environment.
We will be assisting people in being able to take care of themselves while putting active priority on very particular cases of relentless and dangerous harassment that we have pre-vetted, while continuing to alert and assist new targets. We're remaining as adaptable as the situations we encounter.
In fact, as Storify reports, unsurprisingly, there’s already brainstorming going on in baphomet to clog up Crash Override.
For now, Crash Override says, the project is neither charging or seeking donations to help it fend off the storm, but it’ll let us know if that changes.
For now, Quinn told Ars, she’s just accepting Patreon donations to cover the cost of making and releasing “tiny, free games”.
9 comments on “Gamergate target Zoe Quinn launches network to battle online harassment”
I don’t know too much about the subculture that displays these misogynist acts and uses swatting. Are they all just teenage boys? Or boys and men, who do not related well with women? How do you swat someone and justify the consequences, to the victims, the police and yourself? What has happened to those who have been caught swatting, i.e. light reprimand or do they go to trial for committing a potentially dangerous act?
Several people have been charged, convicted, and jailed. The police and the courts consider this a serious offense, and treat it as such.
Swatting isn’t misogynist. Just because it targets a woman doesn’t make it sexist and misogynist. People aren’t doing this to her because she’s a woman. People are doing this to her because she bribed critics with sexual acts to give her awful game a good review.
> Journalistic ethics? Maybe it was in there somewhere at the beginning.
This issue is still going on.
Also, so far people doing the SWATing have been forced to pay the expenses incurred by deploying to police and SWAT teams, but so far nothing has been made public if any charges have been giving above and beyond that.
Apparently the mods didn’t like my link. It pointed out that certain game journalists will condemn certain games if they don’t like the developers while they’re praising similar games that are developed by people in their inner-circles. Much like there was a huge outcry during #TheFappening that it was immoral and wrong even though these same publications wouldn’t take down their coverage of the Hulk Hogan sex tape release.
Potentially lethal physical harassment or potentially unfair verbal\written criticism of a video game?
Gee I wonder which is the more serious issue here.
This swatting thing is getting out of control. It’s basically attempted murder. Thankfully, the authorities know their job quite well and respond appropriately. But, it only takes one less-than-perfect instance.
I applaud the work Crash Override is doing. But, I think we need more. Some day one of these swatting episodes is going to kill someone. As far as I’m concerned, that’s first-degree murder if it happens.
But, there’s another danger, at least equal: a swat team may react timidly to a REAL bomber or other truly dangerous person, and the swat team itself could suffer casualties as a result of being less willing to “pull the trigger”.
As far as I’m concerned, this is an extremely serious problem. Laws need to change; billing someone $10k for the costs of a false report simply isn’t enough. They need to pay commensurate with the risk they put other citizens into. And those risks are extremely high, both for the victim, and for the authorities. So, the financial and prison penalties need to match that risk.
There have been fatalities associated with SWAT teams, so yes, it would stand to reason that swatting could well lead to such, though it apparently hasn’t yet. In October, a man in Utah was shot and killed by a Swat team dispatched after he had called a suicide hotline. Dogs have also been killed on multiple occasions when SWAT teams have responded to false alarms.
Yes, it’s a dangerous “game” the swatters are playing.
And another point: the guys on these SWAT teams are professionals who put their lives on the line FOR US. I put “game” in quotes above, but it’s no game. I’m glad nobody has been killed or injured due to swatting yet (as far as we know), but it’s only a matter of time. Let’s hope it’s an injury or close call, and not a death, that sparks some legal changes.